One Westfield Place FAQs
On September 20, 2022, HBC | Streetworks Development presented a proposal to the Town of Westfield governing body for redeveloping their Lord & Taylor properties and the two municipal parking lots on the North and South sides of the train station as part of a Iarger effort, in partnership with the Town, to revitalize Westfield’s downtown and ensure it stays vibrant for future generations. Their proposal was guided by the cumulative input from numerous community outreach efforts over the past three years, the recently updated Master Plan Reexamination, as well as Westfield’s top-flight team of redevelopment professionals.
With a commitment to maintaining Westfield’s distinct character, they are proposing a downtown for the future – a downtown that will deliver a vibrant commercial hub for generations to enjoy; resolve long-standing traffic, parking, and congestion challenges; provide engaging spaces for community gathering, art, and events; and result in unprecedented new sources of commercial tax revenue.
Their proposal is designed to celebrate the best of Westfield and reaffirm the Town’s long-standing reputation as one of the premier places to live in the State, anchored by a downtown that serves as a national model for a post-COVID Main Street community – one that prioritizes people over cars, is dedicated to sustainability, walkability, inclusivity, and affordability, and one that meets the needs and desires of all residents and downtown businesses, including those who have been here for generations as well those who have just arrived.
The following FAQs have been created as a source of information about the proposal for residents, and will continually be updated to address additional questions as they arise. If you have additional questions that you would like to see included, please send them to email@example.com.
How did the One Westfield Place proposal come to fruition?
In 2018, in light of the shifting retail landscape, the Town Council and administration began proactively addressing the potential closing of Lord & Taylor in Westfield, the downtown’s largest taxpayer and property owner. Discussions were facilitated with top executives at the parent company, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), to ensure there were open lines of communication with the Town about the future of their seven-plus acres of property.
When Lord & Taylor closed in 2020, it lent an even greater urgency to addressing our downtown challenges and, fortunately, the Town’s relationship with HBC was already established. More importantly, our community had already embarked on a journey to create a long-term vision for Westfield which resulted in a roadmap for future progress, with a specific focus on restoring the health and vibrancy of the downtown. This process, driven by community input, resulted in an updated Master Plan which was adopted in 2019, and now informs how the residents of Westfield want to achieve their shared vision. This updated Master Plan is what has guided Streetworks and the Town’s redevelopment professionals in planning the One Westfield Place project that is currently being proposed.
What Council action was taken to further those initial conversations?
At the March 10, 2020, Town Council meeting, the Council took the first official step required under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law towards designating areas in need of redevelopment by passing resolutions directing the Planning Board to study all eight municipal parking lots, the property that the Rialto building occupies, and – as a result of the Town’s continued conversations with Hudson’s Bay Company – the Lord & Taylor sites. All of these properties ultimately met the statutory criteria to be designated as “areas in need of redevelopment,” which then allowed the Town to take a holistic planning approach in collaboration with HBC to fulfill its Master Plan goals and Smart Growth strategies.
What is an “area in need of redevelopment,” and why were these areas designated?
The Town Council can delineate an area within a municipality as an "area in need of redevelopment" if the area qualifies under one or more of the eight criteria set forth in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, NJ.S.A. 40A:12A-5. A property need not be “blighted” – and often is not – in order to meet these statutory criteria.
When properties qualify, and then are designated as “an area in need of redevelopment” by a governing body, a redevelopment plan may be drafted and adopted which would include specific and detailed development project standards reflective of community desires for the development of the area. Designation of an area in need of redevelopment may also qualify projects for certain financial incentives only available to properties with that designation.
In Westfield, the Town’s Master Plan suggests the use of redevelopment tools to address underutilization and adverse conditions created by flat surface parking lots, and in particular, the two Town-owned parking lots surrounding Westfield’s north and south side train stations. Rather than forming the heart of downtown, the two train station parcels, which comprise roughly seven acres, function solely as parking lots and contribute little in terms of social, economic, or environmental value. While the parking they offer is an important resource for commuters and downtown patrons, flat surface lots in this location are an inefficient and obsolescent land use that detracts from the Town’s ability to achieve its broader vision of a vibrant, walkable downtown. This inefficiency was a key component of the Town’s decision to declare the parking lot properties as areas in need of redevelopment in June 2020.
Furthermore, the shift to more remote work post-COVID has only further increased the inefficiency of commuter flat surface parking lots, providing an opportunity to create more efficient commuter parking options while repurposing these properties to deliver broader benefits for the public at large.
Doesn’t an “area in need of redevelopment” have a negative connotation, typically meaning “blighted”?
No. Misperceptions of redevelopment stem from the previous use of the word "blight" to describe "areas in need of redevelopment,” but the criteria has expanded over the past two decades to include economic development, which is the basis for the Westfield properties’ designation. As a result, redevelopment has been used in hundreds of municipalities throughout the State as a tool to drive economic benefits, in communities like:
- South Orange
Redevelopment in these communities and many others has resulted in transformative projects for their residents and businesses. In addition, as described, the owners of properties located in areas in need of redevelopment benefit as well with property values increasing as a result of their inclusion in a redevelopment area.
What does it mean to designate HBC | Streetworks Development as the redeveloper?
It means HBC | Streetworks Development has been given the ability to undertake pre-development activities and present to the Town a proposal for development on the properties for which it is designated, and thereafter, and subject to approval by the Town Council, enter into a redevelopment agreement with the Town. In December 2020, HBC | Streetworks Development was designated for the properties they currently own on North Avenue as well as three municipal parking lots. Ultimately, HBC | Streetworks Development decided to include in its proposal only two of the three parking lots for which it was designated.
Why was HBC | Streetworks Development designated as the developer of the North Avenue and South Avenue train lots in addition to their own L&T properties?
In order to achieve the maximum benefit to Westfield, the Town professionals and administration, in collaboration with HBC | Streetworks Development, concluded that it was best to take a holistic planning approach to enable HBC | Streetworks Development to better deliver on the Town’s Master Plan goals. This approach allows HBC | Streetworks Development to consider the creation of diverse housing products and new office space to drive foot traffic to our downtown businesses, as well as deliver numerous public improvements that include vibrant enhancements to the public spaces at the train station, smarter parking solutions, enhanced mobility options, beautification of the pathways between North and South Avenues, a substantial number of new trees, and improved sidewalks – all of which would not be possible if these sites were not considered collectively.
This holistic approach allows the incorporation of the Lord & Taylor properties into a larger vision for the Town, enabling a consistent and cohesive streetscape and significant public improvements across the entire project. It also provides the opportunity for the Town to become more economically resilient and environmentally sustainable; to create new public gathering spaces; to promote walking and biking; and to develop stronger and safer connections between its north and south sides. Through this collaborative approach, the Town is pursuing policies that consider cars and parking as a component of downtowns rather than their focal point, focusing instead on making these areas safe, accessible, vibrant and engaging.
Lastly, HBC | Streetworks Development's current low-density proposal for their Lord & Taylor site is only possible because they are able to assess its return on investment over multiple parcels, including the North and South Avenue train station parking lot properties. If HBC | Streetworks Development was only developing its own properties, the Town would have less say in whether the Company tears down the Lord & Taylor building and replaces it with a high density residential project on their properties in order to maximize their return. In keeping with our commitment to preservation and adaptive reuse, the Town and our redevelopment professionals fought hard to ensure the iconic Lord & Taylor building would remain.
Does the Town have plans to develop additional municipal parking lots since they have all been designated as areas in need of redevelopment?
No. The Town has no current plans to develop any of the remaining municipal parking lots.
Why didn’t the Town go out to public bid on the development of the municipal parking lots? Is this a “no bid” deal for HBC | Streetworks Development, and is it legal?
The New Jersey law on redevelopment and conveyance of municipal property (NJSA 40A:12A-8(g)) is as follows:
The municipality may “lease or convey property or improvements to any other party pursuant to this section, without public bidding and at such prices and upon such terms as it deems reasonable, provided that the lease or conveyance is made in conjunction with a redevelopment plan, notwithstanding the provisions of any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary.”
Further, the Town is not “giving away” Town property to HBC | Streetworks Development. The Town will only consider selling property to HBC | Streetworks Development, which would include only a portion of two municipal lots that are part of their proposed project, if it can be sold at a market price that has been confirmed to be fair and reasonable by an independent appraiser. The Town will retain ownership of a significant portion of the parking lots designated, and those parcels will benefit from substantial public improvements paid for by HBC | Streetworks Development, and informed through on-going input from the public.
The very nature of a redevelopment project is to create a public/private partnership between government and a private developer, one in which the development that occurs not only advances the community’s interests, but also creates a cohesive whole rather than merely piecemeal development. HBC | Streetworks Development's seven-plus acre Lord & Taylor site is the single largest property in the downtown, making them both the largest downtown taxpayer and one of the most important stakeholders in its future. A stand-alone private development on the Lord and Taylor site would be a missed opportunity to address the challenges of connectivity in that area of town with cohesive streetscape and the intrinsically inter-connected plan that HBC | Streetworks Development has proposed.
And very importantly, negotiating with a single redeveloper allows the Town to insist that the redevelopment project puts forth consistently implemented public improvements and amenities for the entire community that would otherwise simply not happen with smaller, piecemeal development or if the Town property were offered through a typical public bidding process.
By collaborating with HBC | Streetworks Development under the redevelopment laws in New Jersey, Westfield can realize the larger benefits to towns that were envisioned when legislators began enacting them in 1947 and then fully replaced with currently applicable redevelopment laws, adopted in 1992. Westfield can sell property at a fair market value while also reaping the rewards of the hundreds of millions of dollars in investment that HBC | Streetworks Development has planned as a way to enhance our community.
Will a Redevelopment Plan govern the specific zoning for the One Westfield Place project to ensure quality of the development, traffic mitigation measures, and other public improvements?
Yes. The Redevelopment Plan will contain specific development standards for this project. Through adoption of a redevelopment plan and the entering into a redeveloper agreement for the project, the Town will maintain much greater regulatory control over the project than would be possible through conventional zoning. Examples include detailed architectural design standards, building material requirements, and setback and height regulations that reflect the unique characteristics of each project site.
The Redevelopment Plan ensures development that is complementary and supportive for the neighborhood and Town. Also, the Town process requires Planning Board determination that the Redevelopment Plan is consistent with the Master Plan. Traffic mitigation measures, sustainability elements, and specific public improvements will be required by the Redevelopment Plan.
What conditions and terms will the Redeveloper Agreement provide?
A key benefit to the redevelopment process is the level of control that the Town can exercise over the entire process. This control is evidenced in two key documents: the redevelopment plan and the redeveloper agreement. The redevelopment plan establishes the design detail and project requirements of the project. The redeveloper agreement contains the binding terms and conditions of the redevelopment project from project financing, property acquisition, and construction, to post-construction obligations. It is expected that the redevelopment agreement’s terms and conditions will include, among many other provisions:
Setting the scope and design details of the redevelopment and the governmental approvals that the Redeveloper is obligated to obtain.
Establishing the terms under which the Town would convey a portion of its parking lots, including, but not limited to, the Redeveloper’s demonstration to the Town’s satisfaction that the price is fair and reasonable, and that the Redeveloper has met all necessary financial, construction, and planning criteria set forth in the agreement, as well as provisions allowing for the properties to revert to Town ownership upon any default.
Setting the construction schedule and sequencing plan for all public and private improvements included in the project.
Providing the Town with protections during construction and establishing standards and default remedies for construction staging, parking, fencing, project safety, neighborhood protection, and noise issues.
Requiring the Redeveloper’s compliance with affordable housing obligations, green building standards, and other legal requirements.
Establishing the terms for post-construction agreements regarding the interaction between the private development and public improvements, including the terms of any parking license agreements or easements between the properties.
Establishing the financial terms surrounding funding of the public improvements for the financial benefit and protection of the Town.
Limiting assignments of the project from the Redeveloper to entities other than those approved by the Town.
Setting forth remedies to the Town in the event of a default under the agreement by the Redeveloper.
What is the forthcoming public municipal approval process?
The initial phase is currently underway and includes HBC | Streetworks Development's presentation to the public at the Preview Center, seeking and gathering public input, and then sharing outcomes with the Town government. Subsequently, there are numerous steps that must be taken before this project would move forward, beginning in early 2023, each including opportunities for public comment, as follows:
1) Town Council votes to introduce Redevelopment Plan ordinance
2) Planning Board reviews Redevelopment Plan for consistency with the Town Master Plan
3) Town Council holds public hearing and vote to adopt Redevelopment Plan ordinance
4) Town Council votes on resolution authorizing Redevelopment Agreement
5) Town Council votes to introduce ordinance authorizing Financial Agreement/PILOT
6) Town Council holds public hearing and vote on adoption of ordinance authorizing Financial Agreement/PILOT
7) Town Council introduces ordinance authorizing Redevelopment Area Bonds for certain Public Improvements
8) Town Council holds public hearing and vote on adoption of ordinance authorizing Redevelopment Area Bonds for certain Public Improvements
9) Application for Site Plan Approval made to the Town Planning Board by the Redeveloper
10) Planning Board adopts Resolution approving Site Plan application
ITEMS UPDATED JANUARY 12, 2023:
Will the Town place this proposed redevelopment before the voters in a referendum?
The Mayor and Town Council believe that public participation is a critical component of this and any project undertaken by the Town. The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law provides a detailed legislative process for approval of a redevelopment project, and members of the public can and should avail themselves of the multiple public meetings and hearings at which they can make their views known. This is the best form of public participation. It allows for direct communication to the Town Council and ensures that all participants are receiving current and accurate information before developing an informed opinion. It is also the most accurate way to gauge resident interest and collect resident sentiment on the project. The One Westfield Place project additionally benefits from resident feedback provided via the FAQs, Facebook Live sessions, community outreach meetings, and the HBC | Streetworks Development Preview Center.
Nonetheless, residents continue to debate the legality of a non-binding referendum in connection with a redevelopment project, citing the competing provisions of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, the Municipal Land Use Law and an alleged example where a non-binding referendum was permitted in Ridgewood in connection with a redevelopment project. The Ridgewood non-binding referendum took place before the proposed parking garage was a redevelopment project. It is simply not a precedent that applies to the Town’s redevelopment project. Caselaw involving the MLUL, including the Point Pleasant case, can likewise be distinguished, as the Redevelopment Law, unlike the MLUL, prohibits a referendum “notwithstanding any other law to the contrary.”
The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law makes clear that a referendum related to a redevelopment project cannot be held, and it makes no distinction between binding versus non-binding referendums; therefore neither is permitted. Under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, (NJSA 40A:12A-28), no ordinance or resolution, including an ordinance approving a redevelopment plan “shall be submitted to or adopted by initiative or referendum, notwithstanding any other law to the contrary.” Likewise, the NJ Municipal Land Use Law, (N.J.S.A. 40:55D-62.B), prohibits any type of zoning decision to be “submitted to or adopted by initiative or referendum.” The Town has been unable to identify any other municipality in the State that has ever held a referendum on a redevelopment project, regardless of whether it was binding or non-binding.
It’s also worth noting that the Westfield Town Charter does not expressly permit referendums for redevelopment projects, and thus the governing body has no authority to authorize one. Additionally, the power to conduct referendums may generally only be granted by the State Legislature. Westfield is one of only eleven municipalities that operate under a “Special Charter” form of government. Of those, only four municipalities have the power of referendum. Westfield is not one of them.
Referendums are unlawful for redevelopment projects because of the complexities involved in bringing them to fruition, which is why local governing bodies are empowered to make such important economic development decisions on behalf of their constituents. A referendum is an “up or down” vote and does not allow voters to favor certain aspects of a project nor weigh in with constructive comments to inform the proposal. Ultimately, the complex planning and economic development decisions on redevelopment projects such as One Westfield Place benefit from public participation through the legislative process, and not an up or down vote.
If a referendum is not possible, how do Town officials hear feedback, and how will resident feedback be incorporated into One Westfield Place?
Town leadership has prioritized a comprehensive and multi-pronged public engagement process for One Westfield Place to ensure the input of residents and business owners informs the ultimate proposal. This process began in 2019 with the publicly-driven Master Plan Reexamination process where greater than average participation levels and thousands of public comments shaped the document which was unanimously adopted by the Planning Board and supported by the Town Council. This Master Plan Reexamination was provided to Streetworks at the start of their planning process to ensure that their ultimate proposal was driven by the Master Plan recommendations. Then, throughout their planning process, Streetworks proactively sought input from a broad array of community groups with whom they met prior to the proposal being introduced.
Since the public introduction of One Westfield Place, there have been ongoing opportunities afforded to all residents by both Streetworks and Town officials to provide public feedback, ask numerous questions in various online and in-person forums, and to receive context and see renderings at the Preview Center.
The Town remains determined and confident that this open and collaborative process, guided by the best-in-class team of redevelopment professionals who are working on the Town's behalf, will deliver a final proposal to the community that reflects best planning principles and financial risk mitigation measures, is informed by robust market data, parking assessments, and traffic impact studies, and reflects the desires of the community at large.
You can find more information about the redevelopment tools and process here.
What exactly is HBC | Streetworks Development proposing?
The details on their proposal can be found at One Westfield Place.
What are the benefits to the Town of a broader mixed-use development program?
A variety of land uses in a compact walkable space such as Westfield’s downtown provide for a lifestyle that’s convenient, affordable, and active, and create a place where one can find needed or desired goods and services, entertainment and recreation, places to work and live in close proximity to one another, and a variety of transportation options – including the ability to walk, bike, or use public transportation if they so desire.
The Town of Westfield presently has the opportunity through a comprehensive redevelopment program to ensure the sustainable vibrancy of its downtown in a way that sets it apart from other communities. The Town’s Master Plan Reexamination Report recognizes the importance of fostering a mixed-use environment in a way that not only provides services, but also provides places where people can gather and feel part of the community in which they live, work, and play. The report states that “Downtowns are not just about one idea, but a balance of ideas, spaces and uses. The addition of easy community gathering spaces, such as a community green, arts and culture venues, new civic spaces, such as a community center, office space, experiential retail and entertainment venues are the types of uses that set downtowns apart from one another.”
Will the residential buildings provide housing opportunities not currently available to the community?
Westfield’s housing is predominantly detached, single-family homes (82.7%). Increasing the variety of housing choices in Westfield will attract young, new residents as well as allow current residents to age in place. The Westfield Master Plan references the “Household Life Cycle,” acknowledging that housing needs change throughout a person's life, bringing changes in size and household composition and their housing requirements.
In New Jersey, there is a strong demand for housing opportunities enabling our empty nesters and those over 55 to age in place in housing that suits their lifestyle needs. (Rowe, Cathy, New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well.) Affordable Housing is also being provided in furtherance of our Fair Share Housing Plan.
Read more about Westfield's Affordable Housing obligations here.
Will the new residences generate significant additional children to the Westfield school system? (Updated January 23, 2023)
75%, or 154 of the 205 residential units proposed, are for the 55 and over active senior community in order to provide a housing option for downsizers. As a result, only 51 of the proposed residential units would potentially generate any school age children. In Westfield, there are very few school age children in the apartments that have been built since 2017. Of the 151 apartments that are now occupied, there are only 16 school-age children living in them (versus the 21 that were projected). Almost all of these tenants are downsizers, young couples, or newly single. This is true even in three-bedroom apartments. At 501 South Avenue, for example, nearly all of the 18 three-bedroom apartments are occupied by downsizers over the age of 55, even though it is not an age-restricted building.
Meanwhile, total Westfield public school enrollment is down 395 students since 2015, even prior to COVID, and current projections show no anticipated growth, or further declines. In the Town’s regular meetings with school district administration, school officials have acknowledged that the relatively few students who live in these new apartments can be easily absorbed, and they have expressed no concern about any impact on the quality of the education they are able to provide.
That being said, the Town continues to rely on statistical data to make school enrollment projections, acknowledging that the anticipated number of school children that come from new residential units is dependent on numerous factors, including the rental costs, number of bedrooms available, construction quality, level of amenities and more. Studies conducted by the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, and current demographic information from existing projects here in Town and in other New Jersey municipalities have shown that the number of school-age children in multi-family housing is dramatically lower than that which comes from a detached, single-family dwelling. In addition, the demographic multipliers contained in a recent Housing Study prepared by Rutgers Bloustein School in 2018 reveal a very low generation of school children from market rate apartments.
Does the Town have the infrastructure to support the new residents that these apartments bring to Westfield? (Updated January 23, 2023)
The Town has a history of providing support and services to a larger residential population and does not anticipate any challenges in being able to provide adequate services to new apartment dwelling residents, nor does the Town anticipate diminishment of services to existing residents as a result.
For context, Westfield has lost significant population (2,700 residents) since its 1970 peak of almost 34K residents, before experiencing steady population declines over the next 20 years. Population began growing modestly in 1990 and has increased by only 2,100 residents since, to the 31K residents that we have today according to the 2020 census, which also revealed that Westfield was the second slowest growing municipality in Union County at 2.4%, compared to the County at 7.3%, the State at 5.7%, and nationally at 7.4%.
According to the Richard B. Reading Associates Municipal Services Cost Analysis Report, the One Westfield Place proposal is projected to add 315 residents.
Will there be tenant demand for 300K square feet of office space given changes in workforce patterns? What assurances do we have that the office buildings will be leased?
HBC | Streetworks Development’s vast experience in real estate development and an in-depth understanding and expertise of market conditions has informed their proposal, and they remain very bullish on new suburban office space.
Current conditions and trends in the regional and Northern New Jersey office market support new suburban office products that are well located and built to meet the needs of companies today. The demand for Class-A office spaces – often defined as those located in a prime transit-oriented location, featuring on-site amenities that attract the highest quality tenants and command the highest rents – remains strong, and downtown Westfield does not currently have any Class-A office space inventory.
According to CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, “New Jersey’s office market is making great strides towards recovery. Overall leasing activity of 1.45 million square feet during the first quarter was up 132% from the same time last year and above the five-year quarterly average, according to CBRE’s Q1 2022 New Jersey office report”
NJ Office Market Sector Rebounds in Q1 2022 - New Jersey Business Magazine
Insiders: New Jersey office market still ripe for large, blue-chip deals in age of hybrid work
Office space demand is largely driven by tenants seeking to attract a high level of employee talent to locations that combine downtown charm with first class amenities. Post-COVID work trends and evolving generational preferences have informed Streetworks’ proposal to construct two Mass Timber office buildings on a portion of the South Avenue parking lot. Mass Timber construction is an energy-efficient alternative to high-rise and commercial buildings, using wood as a natural, renewable, and sustainable material with a lighter carbon footprint, rather than steel or concrete, an attractive selling point for potential Class-A office tenants.
The amount of square footage that Streetworks is proposing for office space is driven by the minimum space needs that corporate Class-A tenants typically require.
What type of process does HBC | Streetworks Development anticipate to minimize risk of office market fluctuations?
To mitigate risk to the Town and HBC | Streetworks Development, construction of the proposed two office buildings on the South Avenue parking lot will not begin without sufficient pre-leasing in place and anchor tenants secured.
(Updated January 23, 2023): Additional details on risk mitigation measures can be found on the December 19 and January 11 Finance presentations.
How is office space beneficial to the Town?
It is anticipated that Class A office space demand will increase and attract families seeking good schools close to employment hubs, entertainment and leisure, and recreational facilities. As the Master Plan Reexamination Report notes, “It’s important to realize that if you build housing on top of retail, but can’t attract jobs to the area, your shops are going to be empty during the day. Or they’ll be empty at night if nobody is living nearby.” The presence of new, high-quality office space in the downtown would provide a customer base for downtown businesses in the daytime hours, and a physical workplace for Westfield residents seeking to shorten commute times.
Summit and Morristown are two municipalities that have successfully added significant Class A tenant office space to their downtown, which has benefited their downtown businesses while attracting new home buyers.
How does office inventory in Westfield compare to that of neighboring towns?
Currently, Westfield’s office inventory totals 118,000 square feet, far below that seen in Cranford, Summit, and Morristown.
Factoring in the proposed 410,000 square footage of the One Westfield Place project, Westfield’s office space would increase to 428,000 square feet – still at levels far below Cranford, Summit, and Morristown.
According to an analysis of office vacancies in the Northern New Jersey market performed by REIS, office buildings built in the past 10 years have the lowest average vacancy rate of about 9%. Buildings that are more than 10 years old have an average vacancy rate of 19%, and once a building reaches an age of 20 years. the average vacancy rate reaches 26%+. As an example, the new office space in Morristown has been pre-leased and will be fully occupied once completed.
The South Avenue office buildings will provide much-needed Class A office space with premium amenities, and are expected to be the first Mass Timber construction in the state. Construction of these buildings cannot begin until 50% of pre-leasing is complete.
Does the Town have the infrastructure to support 300K square feet of office space?
Whenever new sanitary, gas, water, and electric utility service connections are required, it is necessary for the developer to obtain “will-serve” letters from the utility providers. These letters indicate that these providers have the capacity to provide utility services for a development project. The Town can also require that the developer provide a calculation for the proposed sanitary sewer flow from the development. Projects involving additional flow through an existing sewer line of 8,000 gallons per day or more require approval from the NJDEP. The Town may also require sanitary sewer flow metering to determine if existing mains can accept any increased flow.
Won’t One Westfield Place change the character of our downtown?
HBC | Streetworks Development and the Town’s redevelopment professionals have taken great care to ensure that the scale, height, architecture, and landscape of One Westfield Place is in keeping with the Town’s existing, distinct character. Most of the proposed buildings have significant setbacks from the street to make them seem comparable in scale and height to what exists today.
It’s important to remember that our traditional downtown area is not changing as we know it. Elm Street, East Broad Street, Prospect Street, and the adjacent streets will not change at all, other than potential streetscape improvements. The only development being proposed is on flat surface parking lots which are currently not delivering any foot traffic to our stores, public benefit to our residents, or tax revenue to the town.
How long will the construction take, and how will disruption be mitigated?
Construction is expected to take approximately 3.5 years and will be sequenced to limit disruption and mitigate financial risks to the Town. Due to the complexity of obtaining permits and coordination required with the State, Union County, and New Jersey Transit, it is estimated that construction could begin in 2024, provided the proper permits and approvals have been granted. The Lord & Taylor properties would be developed first, followed by the North Avenue parking facility to ensure adequate commuter parking would be available before the South Avenue construction begins. Local business owners who may be impacted would be consulted and included in pre-construction planning discussions.
Public improvements such as the north side Town Square and south side Town Green, and bike/pedestrian and traffic mitigation improvements would happen concurrently within those construction timeframes.
How has the Town accounted and solved for public parking needs as part of its planning process?
Providing sufficient, convenient, forward-looking, and flexible parking solutions remains a top priority as this proposal is considered. The Town hired THA Consulting (“THA”) to assess the parking impacts of the proposed project and come up with a strategy for replacing parking. THA specializes in parking planning and previously conducted parking analyses for the Town as part of its master planning process.
Does the Town have specific knowledge of parking demand? (Updated February 14, 2023)
Yes. The Town has been assessing parking utilization for several years, including analyses that were included in the Master Plan Reexamination and the Unified Land Use and Circulation Element. The Town also has an updated database of commuter parking permit holders as well as those on the waiting list, which has informed the parking demand assessment. The Town has also been conducting regular counts of utilization of its parking lots and street parking spaces throughout 2022 in order to assess parking demand post-COVID.
Additionally, the Town has been monitoring RVL train ridership to assess commuting patterns. Q4 2022, average weekday ridership for Westfield was 1,134 boardings per day, compared to 2,600 per day pre-COVID. While it is anticipated that ridership will continue to increase, it is widely accepted that peak ridership will be limited to three days per week, an important data point to help inform parking needs and determine how best to maximize the utility of the Town’s parking lots.
Will there be a dramatic loss in parking availability since two of our train station parking lots are being redeveloped?
No. Maintaining adequate parking is an important part of the Town’s definition of success for this project. Based on THA’s analysis and the Town’s planning effort, the project will not result in any loss of parking for commuters, employees, or shoppers.
Will there be the same amount of commuter parking?
Yes. Currently there are 621 combined commuter parking spaces in the North and South lots (Lots 8 and 3, respectively). Based on THA’s analysis, roughly the same number of commuters will be accommodated after the development. Commuters will be accommodated through new structured parking, realigned surface parking on both sides of the train station, more efficient usage of Lot 6 and the Watterson parking lot, and a potential subsidy program with a provider like Lyft or Uber if additional capacity is needed.
Why isn’t the Town proposing to increase the amount of commuter parking? Isn’t there a long waiting list?
The Town is working to balance parking needs with its other goals. Constructing parking is expensive, takes land that could otherwise be used for more productive uses, and can detract from the aesthetics and walkability of an area. The Town wants to pursue a plan that accommodates the 11% of Westfield households that have or seek a parking permit, while also creating a more vibrant and active downtown for the other 89% of local households.
What measures will be taken to maximize parking efficiency?
The Town will incorporate parking technology to ensure full and efficient utilization of the parking garages. For example, digital displays on the entrance to the garages will reveal, in real time, how many parking spaces are currently available which can also be accessed through a parking app. This technology has the added benefit of mitigating traffic congestion by reducing the number of vehicles circulating downtown in search of a parking space.
What happens if commuter parking demand increases? Does the Town have a Plan B? (Updated February 14, 2023)
Yes. Since this project is not anticipated to be completed until 2029, the Town professionals have ensured that the parking strategy could be adapted if parking demand increases or decreases, as commuting patterns and workplace trends evolve.
As of Q4 2022, Westfield average daily ridership is 44% of pre-COVID levels. If commuter parking demand increases in the future, contingency strategies include adding a level to structured parking facilities, using private parking more efficiently, and/or further improving infrastructure for alternative transportation modes like e-bikes. The Town will continue to monitor commuter parking utilization as the project advances and will adjust contingency strategies accordingly.
Did the Town factor in where commuters live when preparing its parking plan?
Yes. The Town parking permit database revealed that roughly 50% of permit holders live on the north side and 50% live on the south side. The proposed parking configuration will evenly distribute parking between both sides of the tracks to better accommodate Westfield commuters while also mitigating crosstown rush hour traffic.
Will non-Westfield residents be eligible to buy commuter parking permits?
No. Commuter parking permits will only be available to Westfield residents, consistent with current policy.
How will the project accommodate people who walk or bike to the Train Station?
As part of the proposed Plan, the Town is pursuing new bike infrastructure on both sides of the train station, including new bike racks, bike lockers, and bike lanes. The Town is also pursuing the creation of public space on both sides of the train station to make it a more comfortable and vibrant place for commuters to wait.
Will parking for patrons of downtown Westfield businesses be impacted?
No. There are 68 shopper/patron parking spaces located in the affected area. Based on the Town’s analysis, the project will result in roughly the same number of dedicated parking spaces for patrons. In addition, the project will create about 525 parking spaces that will be used during the day for proposed office uses but will be publicly accessible for patrons during nights and weekends. This will dramatically increase the availability of parking during these times. Lastly, new parking facilities created for commuter needs will be accessible to patrons, employees, and visitors during evenings and weekends, further increasing the availability of parking adjacent to the downtown.
What about employee parking needs? Will these be accommodated?
Yes. There are roughly 106 employee parking spaces in the affected area. The Town anticipates it will be able to replace these spaces on a 1:1 basis. Additionally, during evenings and weekends, employees can have access to the new parking facilities that will be utilized by commuters during peak hours.
Will the proposed project have its own parking? Will users of the new buildings be competing with commuters, patrons, and employees for public parking spaces?
Each site will have sufficient parking to support its uses. Parking requirements will be included in the Redevelopment Plan.
How will the Town ensure office employees/commuters won’t park on residential streets?
The Town anticipates deploying license plate reader technology to parking enforcement officers to enhance enforcement of two hour parking restrictions on residential streets near the train stations. Currently, two hour enforcement is done manually which makes enforcement difficult, time consuming, and inconsistent.
How will this project solve the current shortage of evening and weekend parking downtown?
In addition to parking that is available to the public at all times, 525 parking spaces associated with the proposed South Avenue office use will be available for public use during nights and weekends. In addition, the new North Ave garage will result in a net increase of 160+/- parking spaces on evenings and weekends at North and Central Avenues.
How will the Town-wide parking system be managed, and in what ways will parking be improved?
(Updated January 31, 2023)
The Town will own and manage public parking and will oversee parking permits as it does today. The financial plan for the project includes funding for two public garages – one on North Avenue with 320 spaces, and one on South Avenue with 208 spaces. The budget for the parking improvements includes capital improvements and operational improvements to allow the Town to implement numerous best practices in parking management.
Some of the technology enhancements include:
o License Plate Recognition (LPR) to enable online permitting and enhanced enforcement
o Digital Time Limit enforcement
o Web-based occupancy systems, allowing real-time space availability to be displayed on lot/garage entrance signage, as well as through an app on your phone
o Digital permitting – “Your Plate is Your Permit”
The parking revenue needs to only be sufficient enough to cover the operating and maintenance costs of the garages as the debt service on the construction costs of the garages will be covered by PILOT revenues.
Westfield Public Parking Report prepared by THA Consulting: Updated February 13, 2023 (PDF)
Is the Town considering the potential traffic impacts resulting from this project?
Yes. The Town required HBC | Streetworks Development to submit a preliminary traffic impact study (“TIS”) which was reviewed by WSP, the Town’s traffic and mobility consultant. WSP has extensive knowledge of local circulation conditions, having drafted Bike Walk Westfield, the Town’s bicycle and pedestrian plan, and led the drafting of the circulation element of the Town’s Master Plan.
Is the TIS in final form?
No. HBC | Streetworks Development will continue to refine the TIS based on input from Town professionals and other stakeholders.
Will the TIS be made publicly available before the project moves forward?
Yes. The Town intends to make the TIS publicly available when it is in a more advanced state before the end of 2022.
(Updated December 12: The study is now posted on the One Westfield Place website.)
Are there traffic improvements that will be necessary as a result of this process?
Yes. The TIS identifies a variety of traffic improvements, ranging from significant infrastructure improvements like new traffic lights, to lower cost measures such as restriping, to operational adjustments like modification of signal timing at intersections. The proposed improvements include items identified during the master planning process, as well as other new changes resulting from the proposed development project. The specific recommended improvements will be detailed in the TIS.
Does the TIS only analyze the intersections in front of the proposed development site?
No. The TIS analyzed 18 intersections, in addition to the six major entrance/exit points of the proposed development. These included intersections in close proximity to the site, like South Avenue & Boulevard, North Avenue & Clark Street, North Avenue & Elm Street, and South Avenue & Central Avenue, as well as more distant intersections that may be impacted by the project like Crossway Place & North Avenue, Prospect Street & East Broad Street, and North Avenue & East Broad Street.
Will the TIS be skewed because of COVID?
No. The TIS synthesized several data sources, including information collected before COVID. It does not rely on traffic counts taken during time periods when COVID would have caused a significant reduction in traffic.
Will there also be bicycling and pedestrian improvements? Will the project include any improvements to make the roads safer for them?
Yes. When contemplating the redesign of intersections, the Town is emphasizing the need for improvements that will benefit bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. HBC | Streetworks Development also considers these improvements a priority for the project. They may include curb extensions, ergonomic crosswalks, bike boxes, bike lanes, traffic calming measures, and other interventions. The mobility hub at the train station will also add to enhancing the bike/pedestrian environment for the community.
ADDITIONAL ITEMS ADDED DECEMBER 12, 2022:
What specific roadway improvements are anticipated?
Based upon preliminary analysis, various proposed improvements have been identified at the following locations, which are subject to further study, as well as input from the County and NJDOT as required.
- Route 28 multi-use trail (bike/pedestrian) between North and South Avenues
- East Broad Street and Prospect Street
- Summit Avenue and South Avenue
- Ross Place and Central Avenue and South Avenue
- East Broad Street and North Avenue at Route 28
- North Avenue and Elm Street
- Central Avenue and North Avenue
- South Avenue and Boulevard
- South Avenue at new office access drive
- North Avenue and Clark Street
What percentage of office workers does the Traffic Impact Study anticipate driving versus taking public transportation to the proposed new office buildings? Why are some saying it’s only 55%?
Recently there has been information circulated that Streetworks’ One Westfield Place Traffic Study uses the assumption that 55% of workers will drive to work at the proposed office at the train station. This is not accurate, as the driving rate for the data on which the report was based is just below 70%.
The Traffic Study follows Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) guidelines which is the standard used for traffic studies conducted for municipal approvals. The traffic study has also been independently reviewed by the Town’s professional traffic consultant, and will require approval by the County and State before the project can commence.
Per the ITE, office development in a Transit Oriented Development (TOD)-type environment generated approximately 85 vehicular trips for every 100,000 sf of development. Current ITE studies indicate that approximately 25% of workers in TOD offices walk, bike or take public transit to work. In addition, the US Census Bureau indicates 4% of commuters in Union County carpool and do not drive. This suggests that 69% of workers at TOD office developments drive to or from work. This is consistent with the overall Census information which indicated that, in 2021, 70% of Union County commuters drove to or from work.
Some of the confusion may come from the fact that the ITE’s actual research shows that Transit Oriented Development (TOD) generates on average 45% less traffic than an office building in a typical suburban environment. This is larger than the percentage decrease for commuters because it also includes other factors such as how flex time has blunted the morning and afternoon peak-hour traffic peaks since 2008/09 (90% of the typical suburban office data predates 2009, whereas 80% of the data used for the traffic study postdates 2009). These trends are projected to continue as the workforce trends younger.
What is a PILOT?
A long-term tax abatement is an exemption from paying taxes on the value of the improvements made to the property as part of a redevelopment agreement. The value of the land itself is still subject to conventional tax rates. In lieu of paying taxes on the exempted value of the improvements, the redeveloper pays to the Town annual services charges, or Payments In Lieu of Taxes (“PILOT”), at an amount agreed to by the parties based upon a formula set forth in the New Jersey Long-Term Tax Exemption Law (“LTTE”) NJSA. 40A:20-1 et seq.
Why and how are PILOTs permitted?
Long-term tax exemptions are authorized by the LTTE. The LTTE was created to help New Jersey municipalities efficiently and responsibly improve their ratable base and are only permitted in areas that have already been determined to be an Area in Need of Redevelopment and are the subject of a redevelopment plan. Redevelopers who receive a PILOT continue to pay regular property taxes on the assessed value of the land upon which the project sits. The school district and Union County will still receive their full portions of the land tax assessment.
How do the payments work under a PILOT?
The law allows municipalities to enter into agreements with redevelopers whereby they make annual service charge payments in lieu of conventional tax payments. PILOT agreements are for a maximum term of 30 years from completion of the project and include staged increases in annual payments over the term to full taxation.
What is the potential PILOT revenue generated by the One Westfield Place project?
From a financial perspective, the revenue is far greater to the municipality under a PILOT because the Town keeps 95% of the annual payment, with 5% going to the County. Under traditional taxation, Westfield’s municipal government only keeps 16% of the tax revenue plus 1.49% for library taxes, with the greatest portion of each tax dollar going to the school district (60%) and the County (23%).
Based upon projected revenue, the project would generate payments to the Town in excess of $200MM over the term, versus $2.7MM if taxed conventionally over the same period. Upon expiration of the tax exemption, the project returns to full conventional taxation.
In addition to financial benefits of the PILOT revenue structure, the Town also benefits from the following:
Repurposing and revitalizing underutilized Town properties to deliver broad public benefits and serve as an important gateway to the Town of Westfield
36 units of affordable housing in a high-quality residential project
PILOT payments that will support approximately $54M in public improvements, including new municipal structured parking, a new firehouse, two public plazas, intersection and road improvements, a mobility hub, upgraded stormwater infrastructure, bike/pedestrian connections, and further beautification of Quimby Street
A direct payment of $8M to the creation of the public spaces and public improvements in the Town
A payment to the Town of over $10M for Streetworks’ purchase of portions of our two municipal parking lots
Yielding tax revenue from the two municipal parking lots for the first time
Are PILOTs beneficial to overall Town revenue too?
Yes. With the PILOT, Westfield will have a new and substantial revenue source for the 30-year term. This directly supports the municipal budget, helping keep resident taxes down and/or directly supports community capital project needs which can, at any time, include improvements to the schools if that funding is determined to be a priority.
Would entering into a PILOT agreement with Streetworks reduce available funding for the schools?
No. The schools will continue to receive what they receive today. Under a PILOT Agreement the property still pays conventional taxes on the land. In this case, Streetworks will pay conventional taxes on the land value of the Lord & Taylor sites, as well as on the value of the portion of the municipal lots they propose to purchase, which are currently not on the tax rolls.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that the schools will always be fully funded, PILOT or no PILOT. By law, the Board of Education is guaranteed full funding of its budget regardless of what the municipality collects. While the Town of Westfield serves as the property tax collector, the School District always receives its full funding first, followed by the County, and the municipality is paid last. Any suggestion that the schools will be underfunded as a result of a PILOT is not correct.
Will the amount of new school children living in these new residential units increase the costs to the Westfield Board of Education?
Given the enrollment projections from the Westfield Board of Education, the addition of children from the 51 under 55 residential units is not likely to require any expansion of capacity or capital improvements at the schools. What it costs to currently operate Westfield schools will therefore be generally the same. Therefore, no shortfall or financial burden would be experienced when the new units are occupied.
ITEMS ADDED DECEMBER 30, 2022
How will the PILOT payments be calculated?
The Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Tax (or PILOT) is an alternative to a payment of conventional real estate taxes on the improvements constructed by the Redeveloper, HBC | Streetworks Development and its associated affiliates (“Streetworks”) for One Westfield Place as designated by the Town. Streetworks will, at all times, make conventional real estate tax payments on the land upon which the improvements sit.
The PILOT payment is calculated as a percentage of the "annual gross revenue" or "AGR" of each building detailed below. The redevelopment project encompasses three geographic zones – The West Zone, the North Zone and the South Zone. Within each Zone, Streetworks will construct the following buildings:
Annual gross revenue for each building will include all revenue from any source collected by Streetworks, including rents, parking, storage, bike, pet, and any other miscellaneous fees charged and collected by Streetworks. Annual gross revenue does not consider or allow for any deductions for operating expenses and is not in any way tied to Streetworks' "profit."
Streetworks will pay PILOTs for a 30-year term, commencing upon substantial completion of each respective building. The formula for the PILOT payments is as follows:
Beginning in year 16, the PILOT payment will be equal to the greater of (i) 15% of Annual Gross Revenue or (ii) a percentage of what conventional taxes would be on the building if conventionally taxed at then current tax rates as follows – 20% of conventional taxes in each of the years 16-21, 40% of conventional taxes in each of the years 22-28, 60% of conventional taxes in year 29 and 80% of conventional taxes in year 30.
What is the minimum PILOT payment that must be made by Streetworks?
Under the Long Term Tax Exemption Law, the minimum PILOT payment for each building is an amount equal to the total taxes paid on the property in the last full tax year before the PILOT commences. On the West Zone (the current Lord & Taylor sites owned by Streetworks), this amount is approximately $537K. Practically speaking, using a conservative assumption that the PILOT actually paid to the Town is only 80% of what is currently projected by Streetworks and validated independently by the Town, the PILOT will generate over $2M to the Town in the first year after the West Zone is fully built and occupied. Similarly, on the North and South Zones, the projected PILOT at 80% is approximately $1.6M in the first year after the North and South Zones are fully built and occupied.
All of this PILOT revenue is new revenue to the Town. These amounts do not include the Town's share of land taxes paid on the West, North and South Zones, which Streetworks will pay in addition to the PILOT payment.
When will the PILOT Payments be made to the Town?
The PILOT payment for each building commences upon substantial completion of that building. The following chart summarizes the estimated construction completion schedule for each building:
What is the expected annual PILOT payment to the Town?
The following schedule illustrates the expected annual PILOT and land tax revenue to the Town during the 30-year PILOT term, based on the estimated completion schedule set forth above, and divided by Zone:
 The land tax revenue assumes a year-over-year 2.00% tax rate increase across all taxing districts, including the Town, Board of Education and County, among others.
Will the Town be protected if PILOT revenue is not received as anticipated?
Yes, the Town will be protected in several ways.
- First, while the overall redevelopment project is being constructed, the Town will require the payment of a special assessment on Streetworks property in an amount equal to any shortfall in PILOT/land tax revenue necessary to pay debt service on certain Town bonds issued to fund Town-owned public improvements throughout the downtown, discussed in more detail below. Streetworks’ special assessment obligation is secured by the value of the West Zone real estate, and eventually, by the real estate Streetworks will own in the North and South Zones.
- Second, there are certain strict conditions that Streetworks must meet before the Town will issue each series of redevelopment bonds. These conditions will protect the Town from issuing bonds too far in advance of project development which generates the PILOT payments to the Town.
- Third, to be conservative, the Town is currently assuming in its modeling that it only receives 80% of the PILOTs projected. At that 80% PILOT amount, total expected PILOT revenues to the Town (excluding land tax revenues) exceed projected debt service on bonds issued to fund the Town-owned public improvements by more than two times. Finally, if PILOT or special assessment payments are not paid by Streetworks when due, then the failed PILOT and/or special assessment payment becomes a municipal lien that the Town can sell or foreclose upon to collect the PILOT and/or special assessment revenue.
What happens after Year 30, when the tax abatement ends?
After the respective year 30 abatement term of each building ends, Streetworks will resume paying conventional real estate taxes on the improvements based on the then-assessed value of the improvements at the Town's then-tax rate, which are then distributed amongst the Town, the Board of Education and the County, among others.
What are the public improvements on Town owned property that will be funded by a portion of the PILOT revenue?
The Town and Streetworks have identified and created a list of required public improvements for the benefit of the Town, its residents and businesses, which will be funded by, among other things, a Streetworks cash contribution of $8M, in addition to PILOT revenue paid by Streetworks to the Town.
These public improvements include:
- North Avenue Town Square
- South Avenue Town Green
- North Avenue public parking garage
- South Avenue public parking garage
- New smart-technology Town parking system
- Traffic/congestion mitigation upgrades
- Pedestrian safety improvements
- Quimby Street enhancements
- Roadway improvements
- Streetscape improvements (sidewalks, trees, street furniture)
- Mobility Hub enhancements (bike/pedestrian, rideshare, etc.)
- Pedestrian walkway
- Train Station tunnel improvements
These Town-owned public improvements are anticipated to cost approximately $54M, inclusive of soft costs, contingency costs, customary performance and payment bonds and an escalation factor to account for the fact that these improvements are constructed over an approximately four-year period.
The Town and Streetworks will also collaborate and work with PSE&G and the various utility companies to develop a feasible plan for eliminating the street poles on the southern side of South Avenue through the burying of utilities in that area.
The budgets have been carefully crafted so that all of these improvements can be supported by Streetworks’ commitment of $8M (above and beyond PILOT obligations–see below) and not more than 80% of the Town’s expected PILOT revenue. If PILOT revenue falls below 80% of anticipated, then the Town may have to delay the start of one or more of these public improvements until more revenue is available.
The Town is also looking at ways that the unbudgeted revenue from the PILOTs with Streetworks can support other Town initiatives, including the construction of a new Northside Firehouse, which would allow for, among other things, the adaptive re-use of the existing North Avenue firehouse as another enhancement to the Town Square.
How much money is Streetworks contributing to the Town-owned public improvements?
Streetworks is contributing $8M toward these Town-owned public improvements located on Town-owned property. This is in addition to public streetscape improvements and other public spaces being planned and constructed on Streetworks’ property at a total value of approximately $3M.
How much will the Town be bonding for and when to enable the construction and completion of the Town-owned public improvements?
The Town currently anticipates issuing approximately $44M in redevelopment bonds in three series in the following order and for the following purposes:
The Town will not issue the first series of bonds until (i) Streetworks has contributed $8M towards the Town-owned public improvements and (ii) Streetworks has achieved certain construction completion metrics on the West Zone project which, upon completion, is projected to provide over $118M in PILOT and land tax revenue, which is more than sufficient to cover the total debt service on the North Zone Parking Deck bonds of approximately $32M.
The Town will not issue the second series of bonds until (i) Streetworks has paid the Town fair market value for the property for a portion of the Town's North Zone land (0.22 acres) and a portion of the Town's South Zone land (2.045 acres) as confirmed by an independent appraiser engaged by the Town and currently estimated to be approximately $10.1M and (ii) Streetworks has achieved certain construction completion metrics on the South Zone project which, upon completion, is projected to provide nearly $96M in PILOT and land tax revenue, of which the Town will use less than $22M to pay debt service on the South Parking Deck Bonds. North and South Zone PILOT and land tax revenues are over 4 times the amount of aggregate debt service on the South Parking Garage Bonds, further ensuring that the bonds issued to fund the public improvements do not put Westfield taxpayers at risk.
The third series of bonds will be issued nearer to the end of overall project completion, after South Zone construction is underway, and after the Town has spent the Streetworks $8M contribution to fund public improvements, including the North Town Square, traffic/congestion mitigation improvements, streetscape improvements and the North Zone mobility hub.
What kind of bonds will the Town be issuing?
The Town will be issuing redevelopment area bonds (RAB) pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law and the Redevelopment Area Bond Financing Law.
How will the Town bonds be secured?
The redevelopment bonds will be secured by a pledge of the Town's ad valorem taxing power, and will be paid from the PILOT revenues received by the Town and deposited in a segregated account at the Town for payment of debt service on the bonds. This is similar to the financing structure the Town uses to fund capital projects for its pool utility, and the one used by municipalities in New Jersey that operate a municipal water, sewer, parking, or other utility.
How much of the annual PILOT revenue will be used to finance the Town-owned public improvements?
Assuming the Town issues all redevelopment bonds at a 4.00% interest rate, the Town projects it will use approximately $73M in aggregate PILOT and land tax revenue to pay for debt service on the redevelopment bonds issued to fund the Town-owned public improvements.
Could the Town receive more or less than the $213M estimated in PILOT revenue?
Yes. The $213M estimated PILOT and land tax revenue to the Town is based on, among other things, current forecasts of Streetworks’ annual gross revenue, which is based upon projected rental and other charges, as well as occupancy rates across the project, as validated by the Town's third-party professionals. If actual rents are higher or lower and/or occupancy rates are higher or lower, the total PILOT to the Town will increase or decrease accordingly; however, pursuant to the Long Term Tax Exemption Law, Streetworks will always have to make the minimum PILOT payment (in the approximate amount of $537K), plus land taxes.
What is being done to minimize any risk to the taxpayers of Westfield?
The Town has taken several steps to minimize risks to taxpayers.
- First, the Town is not obligated to issue any redevelopment bonds until after certain progress milestones have been achieved on the project. This reduces the risk that PILOT revenue comes on-line in amounts and on a schedule sufficient to pay for debt service on the redevelopment bonds.
- Second, the Town has ensured its ability to pay debt service on the redevelopment bonds through project stabilization via special assessment payments made by Streetworks. The special assessment payments are secured by the value of the West, North and South Zone land that Streetworks owns.
- Third, the Town is performing conservative financial modeling, assuming interest rates that are higher than currently projected and PILOT revenues at 80% of projections. Based on current projections at 100% realization, PILOT and land tax revenues to the Town are nearly three times the amount of projected debt service on the Town bonds issued to fund the Town-owned public improvements.
- Fourth, any failed PILOT payment, special assessment payment or land tax payment when due, converts to a municipal lien, which the Town can sell or foreclose upon to collect unpaid PILOTs, special assessments and/or land taxes, as applicable.
Additional details on risk mitigation measures can be found on the December 19 and January 11 Finance presentations.
If there is so much PILOT revenue, why is the Town bonding for the Town-owned public improvements?
The Town is securitizing a portion of the PILOT revenue upfront to ensure that the Town-owned public improvements are delivered sooner to the Town's residents and businesses for their benefit, enjoyment and use, and to aid in the development of a fully integrated project between the public and private improvements. There is approximately $54M in total Town-owned public improvements being constructed, exclusive of the public improvements being built on Streetworks’ property and funded by them. If the Town paid for those improvements using 100% of the PILOT received each year, leaving none of the PILOT revenue available for other Town uses, it would take approximately 9 years, beginning in 2030, to complete all of the public improvements. The Town does not believe its residents and businesses should wait that long to enjoy all of the public benefits that result from the public improvements, nor should the Town be required to use 100% of the PILOTs received to pay for such public improvements.
Additional information about PILOTS can be found here.
Will the project create new public spaces?
Yes. There are a number of new public spaces throughout the project, all of which are only possible through the structure of the proposed PILOT arrangement. These include:
The Town Square and Town Green will be located on the northern and southern sides of the Train Station, respectively. These flexible spaces will serve as central gathering areas for community events while still remaining functional as pick-up and drop-off locations. The connection between these two spaces will be strengthened by improvements to make the existing pedestrian tunnel between north and south more attractive and welcoming.
Improvements to Quimby Street will formalize the festival environment Westfielders have enjoyed in recent years during Open Quimby. Quimby Street is proposed to be connected to North Avenue via Quimby’s Way, an enhanced alleyway that will provide an additional pedestrian route that will be uniquely Westfield.
The Boulevard Extension will be a new festival street on the south side of the Train Station that will be lined with retail and can be activated similar to how Quimby Street functions.
Will there be new bike amenities at the Train Station?
Yes. The area around the Train Station is being envisioned as a mobility hub. This means that it is designed to meet the needs of people that come to the Train Station by any mode of transportation, including pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists. Contemplated improvements include bike lockers, bike repair stations, bike racks, and e-bike charging stations.
Will there be improvements to the bike and pedestrian network in Town?
Yes. Numerous improvements will be implemented, many of which were previously identified in the Bike Walk Westfield Plan. These include new multi-use paths, curb extensions, improved crosswalks, and new bike lanes. Streetscapes along the development as well as at other key locations throughout downtown will be improved to create a more connected and cohesive environment.
Will there be streetscape improvements in other areas of downtown, or just in front of the project sites?
Creating connectivity throughout downtown is an important part of the project. To that end, streetscape improvements are proposed in locations throughout downtown to better connect the sites. These include sidewalk improvements, hundreds of new trees, and burying utility wires along South Avenue.
Will the project enable the Town to fund a new firehouse? What will happen to the existing firehouse on North Avenue?
The revenue created from the project will create an opportunity for the Town to implement many projects, including a new firehouse. The existing one, built in 1911, no longer meets the needs and requirements of a modern firehouse. If the Town elects to pursue the creation of a new firehouse using revenue from this project, the existing firehouse may be adaptively reused for a community purpose, including civic space and/or a new restaurant/bar similar to the project currently underway at the north side train station. Any discussions and plans for building a new fire house would be led and informed by the input and recommendations of the Chief of the Fire Department.
How will stormwater runoff be impacted?
The current flat surface parking lots were constructed without any consideration of impervious coverage or stormwater runoff. The project will provide the opportunity to incorporate modern stormwater infrastructure into the development, which is anticipated to reduce runoff by 30%.
The project will be required to comply with the Town of Westfield’s stormwater management ordinance. This ordinance (General Ordinance No. 2208) was revised in 2021 to comply with the latest NJDEP standards.
Generally, the ordinance and NJDEP standards mandate that the post-construction runoff hydrograph cannot exceed the pre-construction runoff hydrograph. The development cannot be approved if this minimum standard is not met. As a result, the existing stormwater infrastructure and drainage patterns cannot be negatively impacted. Detailed review of stormwater management to ensure compliance will take place at the Planning Board.
What are the green elements of the project?
Perhaps the most important sustainability feature of the project is the change in land use. The sites are changing from surface parking lots surrounding a train station to a mixed-use development that will promote transit use and pedestrian activity. The project embodies the core characteristics of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), which is defined by the EPA as “compact development built around a transit station… and containing a mix of land uses.” Environmental benefits of TOD noted by the EPA include “lower household transportation costs, [increased] public transit ridership, [and] reduce[d] greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.”
Additionally, the project will include sustainable design features which will be specified in the Redevelopment Plan and guided by the Town’s Green Development Checklist. Streetworks has committed to meeting recognized standards for green building, including designing to LEED Silver, Passive House, and WELL V2 standards.
View the January 24 Presentation on Wellness, Sustainability, and Programming Public Spaces
NEW ITEMS ADDED DECEMBER 12, 2022:
Will the new residences generate significant additional children to the Westfield school system? (Updated January 23, 2023)
Only 51 of the proposed residential units would potentially generate any school age children, because two-thirds, or 154 of the 205 residential units proposed, are for the 55-and-over active senior community in order to provide a housing option for downsizers.
Using the conservative multipliers of the 2018 Rutgers Housing Study for New Jersey and a conceptual bedroom mix of the 69 non age-restricted units, One Westfield Place could potentially generate:
The numbers estimated using the Rutgers study’s multipliers are actually higher (21) than what we experience in Westfield. There are very few school age children (SAC) in the apartments that have been built since 2017.
333 Central Avenue (70 units) 5 SAC
The Parker (31 units) 2 SAC
Northside (20 units) 2 SAC
501 South Avenue (30 units) 7 SAC
Total: 16 SAC vs projected 21
Have Board of Education enrollment projections been considered?
Total Westfield Public Schools enrollment is down 395 students since 2015, even prior to COVID. Current projections show no anticipated growth, or further declines. The Town and school district administration meet regularly, and school officials have acknowledged that the relatively few students who live in these new apartments can be easily absorbed, and they have expressed no concern about any impact for the project on the quality of the education they are able to provide.